Chewsday-June 17th

One year today since the blog went live!This week it’s another two rather obscure facts; one on ship disasters and a second on World Cup football, which now features two weeks in a row in the spirit of the games.

The most popularised ship disaster of all time is that of the RMS Titanic; the supposed unsinkable ship, which went down in 1912 after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage. The rest, rather like a cliché, is history. With a death toll of over fifteen hundred, and with the majority of its male and lower class passengers (or if very unlucky-both male and lower class) going down with the ship (a cliché again I’m afraid), the story of the Titanic has won its place in history rightfully. The Titanic sunk during peacetime, with it’s massive hull striking the Atlantic floor some time before Europe imploded into war. But in war, even civilian ships become targets. Such was the case with the Lusitania, a ship sunk by German naval power leaving nearly 1200 people dead. And so comes our first fact: what exactly is the worst wartime maritime disaster?

One of the least known multi-ship disasters is that of the English armada (yes, not the Spanish). Coming some time after the Spanish calamity, the renowned Sir Francis Drake helped lead the English into a 15,000 man blood bath. Course we never hear that story, do we? What is regarded as possibly the worst single ship disaster in history is that of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This German evacuation ship (carrying some Nazi officials and troops, but majorly acting as a civilian transport) sailed into the Baltic Sea and met its end by three torpedo shots. Coming at the start of 1945 when the war was all but lost for Hitler, over nine thousand people are estimated to have been killed during the sinking, some seven or eight times the amount that were lost during the Lusitania attack.

Lazarettschiff  "Wilhelm Gustloff" in Danzig

On a brighter and more relevant note, we look at another World Cup fact. Giuseppe Meazza is widely regarded by football experts to be one of the greatest players in World Cup history. Playing for Italy in the 1930s, his goals helped lead Italy to two trophies in 1934 (in which he won the golden boot) and 1938. He scored 33 times for Italy. One of the most memorable (but least known) World Cup goals came in the 1938 semi-finals, where Italy played host to Brazil. Italy were awarded a penalty after Silvio Piola, the team’s new center forward, was chopped down in the box by “the Divine Master”, Domingos da Guia. The Brazilian goalkeeper Walter, who was famous for hypnotizing his opponents and for saving penalties back in Brazil, arrogantly claimed he was certain he would save the shot. Meazza confidently stepped up, but having been the target of Brazilian tackles throughout the match, saw his shorts fall down during his run up due to the elastic having suffered damage. Still with his eyes fixed on goal, the prolific scorer held up his shorts by one hand and continued his run to place the ball into the net, with the Brazilian keeper still busy laughing at the situation in front of him.The goal stood, and Italy went on to win the 1938 World cup, much to Meazza’s relief of course, who was left a telegram by Mussolini reading “Win or die!” before the tournament.


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